A Lazy Life of Sex and Mojitos (26/7/2013)

Posted in Critical Failures

I signed a new contract a couple of weeks back. I’ve got another one to sign right in front of me. I’ve got an offer on the table for some more. The last few weeks have been one big sigh of a long-held breath of thank-fuck-for-that. Because things have, for a while, been a little tense.

Now and then, when people ask what I do for a living and I tell them I write books, they act as though this is some amazing thing that makes me somehow immensely special. I’ve taken to simply rolling with that. I’m not sure I buy it. I think what I used to do was actually more challenging and took more training and more skill. For some reason it doesn’t strike me as all that clever that I write books. In part, I think, that stems from the sense of having pulled some great con trick on life so I get to do this thing that I largely greatly enjoy and somehow scrape a living out of it.

Now and then I also meet people who assume that being a writer equates with being rich. I’d laugh except it still hurts too much (stupid infection)

So far this year, then, work has consisted of the following:

  • Copy-editing and proof-reading various manuscripts coming out this year. Totally about 550k words.

  • Two proposals (unpaid) written for series of novellas / short stories. One has turned into a contract, one hasn’t and probably won’t.

  • Editorial revision of a ghost-written piece of about 100k words

  • Manuscript delivered for editing (The Splintered Gods, 210k words)

  • Speculative manuscript delivered (title TBA historical fiction, 80k words – kinda hopeful this one will sell)

  • Speculative manuscript delivered (SF, 100k words – no idea if this will sell)

  • Half a manuscript delivered for editing (BigSekkrit SF, 40k words)

So that’s 430k words delivered so far this year. For reference that’s about equivalent to A Storm of Swords.

The rest of the year is going to consist of:

  • Another manuscript delivery (Empires: Extraction 80k words)

  • Two novellas delivered (announcement soon, 30k words each)

  • Editing The Splintered Gods and BigSekkrit

  • One more speculative manuscript bashed into shape for delivery of about 120k

  • Starting work The Silver Kings or something else.

Which will bring the word count up to about 700k for the year, consisting effectively of three contracted novels and three speculative ones. In order to make ends meet this year, one of those speculative ones needs to sell for something more than a bottom-of-the-range advance. That’s to keep a family of four going who have fairly low overheads but with a penchant for an occasional extravagance.I guess if I was single without dependents I could get by on half that. And then it’s a different game again, I suppose, if you have a second income from somewhere.

In order to do this, I’m sat in front of a laptop working for 5-6 hours of almost every day of the year.

Don’t take this as a gripe in any way – I work a fairly average number of hours every week, I get to do it wherever I can take a laptop at whatever time of day I feel like and I’m largely beholden to no one doing a job that I largely enjoy. My point – my only point – is that for most of us, it’s not the lazy life of sex and mojitos that some people seem to think, dammit.

Frenzy (10/9/2012)

Posted in News

Online activities are largely suspended for the duration of September. And possibly October and November and December, if work I’m chasing comes in. Currently working on The Black Mausoluem III: The Splintered God which needs to be drafted by the end of the month. Also the edits for the first two volumes of the Sodium Hydride project have come back. Also also there’s a joint project with a Gollancz SF author in the works, although that’s just bouncing ideas about right now. And then there’s some ghostwriting, about which more later.

News updates will be rare and far between for a while. See you at Fantasycon.

Dragon Queen Completed (3/4/2012)

Posted in News

The last rewriting for Dragon Queen is now finished and the manuscript will be submitted for editing later this week. A few statistics:

Intended Wordcount: 120k

Actual Wordcount: 204k

Intended hours of effort: 300 hours

Actual hours of effort: more like 500 hours (so about two full months more than it was meant to be)

Number of characters inherited from The Adamantine Palace: 2

Number of  dragons inherited from The Order of the Scales: 1

Number of Adamantine Men: 1

Number of characters inherited from The Warlock’s Shadow: 1

Number of unusually polite assasins: 3

Number of people burned by dragons: lots

Number of times the words lightning and/or rocket appear: 172

Number of times the words flower and/or hippy appears: 4

Number of times I had mis-spelled lightning as lighting before I went through and manually checked every single damned instance: 23

Number of primary human characters: 6

Number of primary human characters who are overtly non-Caucasian: 3

Number of primary human characters who are overtly old: 2

Number of primary human characters who are overtly female: 2

Number of primary human characters who are overtly old, female and non-Caucasian: 1

Number of primary human characters who are revealed as shape-shifting sentient lemons from another world: 0

Number of times the word lemon appears: 2

Number of people disintegrated by the wrath of an angry god: 5

Make of that what you will. I am particularly pleased with this one, but then I think I’ve felt that about every book I’ve finished, so perhaps best not to read too much into that.

Back to working on the edits for The King’s Assassin and the proof of The Black Mausoleum.

Progress Report and Publication Dates (16/3/2012)

Posted in News

TBM Cover de-rezzed

The big bad news, unfortunately, is that the publication date for The Black Mausoleum has slipped from May to August. This is entirely my fault for having done basically all of the work and then sending the wrong draft back to Gollancz and not noticing for a month. This late in the day everything’s on a tight schedule and so now that it has to go back a couple of steps there’s not enough time to have the book ready for May. My bad. Sorry. I will try and make it up to anyone readers here over the next few weeks with some interviews with some of the characters and some free books.

Bad author. BAAD author.

Speaking of publication dates, if anyone (like me) thought that The King’s Assassin was coming out in August, think again. October, and that’s probably what it always was. So far so good on that one, barring any wrong-draft cock-ups :-!

kings assassin new

And then Dragon Queen. I’ll let Zafir say some words about that in a few days but it’s on its last spit and polish before submission and still on track for May next year. Beyond that, the first book of the myserious Sodium Hydride project is going through almost its last rewrite, the second book has a good first draft and with a bit of luck all three will be done and dusted by the end of summer and then I’ll be looking for something new to do.

Which is why I’m writing pitches.

On a laptop. In bed. Eating pizza at the same time.

Damn this writing is hard work…

UPDATE: Some new reviews I forgot, all from Pauline’s Fantasy Reviews.

“a whole heap of rip-roaring fun and no mistake.” (The Adamantine Palace)

“the second best opening I’ve ever encountered after ‘Tigana’” (The King of the Crags)

“The dragons are brilliant…” (The Order of the Scales)

Obviously I pick the highlights. Fine, look, it’s already a done deal that the next set of deagon books will have a) more time invested in fewer characters b) a few more sympathetic ones and c) OK, OK, I’ll ease back on killing them.

Happy New Year (3/1/2012)

Posted in News

Uh, so here we are in 2012 and Santa was kind enough to land a copy of Skyrim on my desk and now I’m quietly watching all my delivery deadlines sail off into the wild blue yonder. Or white and snowy yonder, as the case may be. Ah well.

So what’s up for this year:

February 7th: The Order of the Scales comes out in the US and (I think) in France. The dragons made it to a couple of best-of lists again this year – over at the Ranting Dragon and an honourable mention at the bottom of the Wertzone Awards. You read these two pages, you realise what a lot of great fantasy we had last year.

April: The Warlock’s Shadow comes out in small form. I feel kind of sorry for the thief-taker and his boy – they haven’t taken off quite like the dragons did, but I love them just the same. The third book, The King’s Assassin,has been delivered but there won’t be any more in this series, not directly. However, as the Enormous Crocodile would say, I have secret plans and clever tricks…

May: Not sure of the dates, exactly, but The Black Mausoleum comes out around this time and I’m supposed to be delivering Dragon Queen. Dragon Queen is is going to be a bit different. And a bit bigger. Most of it is set in the world of the Taiytakei, but currently there are parts set in the dragon-realms, a part in Deepwater and some parts in Tethis, the centre of the action in The King’s Assassin. I say currently because it’s still in work, but Skyrim or otherwise, I shall make it my resolutino this year to deliver this one on time. Much more character-focussed than the first three books, this one. I hope.

Summer: Allegedly, all three volumes of the Memory of Flames come out in Germany, one each month. More news on that when I actually know.

The project-about-which-I-shall-not-speak is also supposed to be delivered. That’s more of a self-imposed deadline than anything else. More, er… Skyrim prone, that one. Three Sodium Hydride manuscripts before the summer holidays and I’ll be happy.

It’s also possible that The King’s Assassin will come out in August. Or maybe October. It’s delivered, that’s all I can say for sure so far.

Something might happen in Poland at some point. Chances are I’ll heart about it long after the event. In fact, all sorts of things might happen in the last third of the year. I’m hoping for some rather more exciting (for me at least) news for the back end of the year, but it’s an unceratin world and an uncertain profession, this authoring lark. Appearances at conventions and so forth might be a bit thin on the ground this year due to circumstances beyond my control (and not Skyrim, really really) but I’ll do as much as I can.

Anyway, happy new year, and I raise a glass to all you dragon-lovers! Cheers!

The Black Mausoleum (8/4/2011)

Posted in News

There’s Karatos, the alchemist sentenced to death for being what she is. There’s Siff in the next cell. His death sentence is for killing four soldiers with his bare hands even though he has no memory of how he did it. There’s Skjorl, the Adamantine Man whose job it is to watch over them.

Thing is, though, Siff knows something. He knows something that might just change the fate of the world and right now, any change at all is looking like a good thing. So Kataros has to get him out, so he can show her what he’s found, and never mind that he’s likely going to stab her in the back the first chance he gets. To get him out, she needs Skjorl, even if the Adamantine Man would rather stab himself than help someone like Siff, and that’s only the start of what he’d do to her, given the chance.

And then there’s the dragon. The dragon doesn’t hate any of them. It’s a dragon. It simply wants to eat them.

The Black Mausoleum. Someone’s going to die.

Submitted this week.

And a Brief Newsflash (11/1/2011)

Posted in News

The Warlock’s Shadow has been submitted! Hurrah!

King of the Crags hit the Ranting Dragon’s best of 2010 list! Hurrah!

Now what?

Happy New Year (4/1/2011)

Posted in News

Another year, and things are gonna change around here. At some point, the graphics of my site are all going to change. It’s time, I’m told, to get a bit more dragony. So expect to see some of this…


OK, it’s not the final cover, which won’t have the quote from Joe on it. But I’m an impatient man and bored of waiting for the final cover art (pokes editor gently with a stick. But only gently because I’ve just missed a deadline…)


A very shame-faced one in this case, because it’s all my own fault. All I can say to anyone else out there who might one day find themselves in the same position is DON’T assume the manuscript you wrote six months ago is ‘fine and just needs a bit of touching up’ and leave looking at it again until a month before it’s due for submission.

The good(ish) news is that The Warlock’s Shadow will only be about two weeks late on my editor’s desk, at which point I can go back to poking him with a large stick instead. About things like THE FINISHED COVER ART FOR ORDER OF THE SCALES,DAMMIT! (although actually, we should all feel a little sorry for the man, as he’s had to pick up a load of extra authors on top of the too much work he already had, and I dare say a lot of them are every bit as annoying as I am).

In more dragony news, the rewrites for Order of the Scales are going fine and the first complete draft for The Black Mausoleum is now sitting on my laptop. Hmmm. Won’t put off those rewrites quite as long with this one.

There are some other changes coming for 2011. I’m thinking of some slightly different content. I’ll try not to be boring, but, tempting as it is to go into detail as to whether the VAT is or isn’t a regressive tax, frankly I’m not that interested, and I suspect that goes the same for most of the people who actually read this. And it would be a huge piece of work. And then we’d get into arguments that would drag on for ages, and I’ll disagree with you about stuff you believe in passionately because the foundations of almost every argument made either way are built on the sand of dodgy statistics, and if there’s one thing that really gets my goat, it’s dodgy statistics… There, see, ranting already!

<Runs off. Has cold shower. Comes back>

No. Expect the occasional post about Star Wars, gaming, and how five-year-old children absolutely understand Munchkin in a way it takes a mature adult years to learn.

Finally, 2010 ended with a couple of rather nice reviews for King of the Crags, anticipating (perhaps) its forthcoming US release.

“Stephen Deas has combined all that’s good in fantasy and spun it around in a thriller-paced tale that will leave you breathless.” The Ranting Dragon.

“Prince Jehal … is brilliant. One of the most complex, twisted and ultimately human characters I’ve read … When I think back over what I’ve read this year … I’m hard pressed to find one I enjoyed more than this one.” SF Crowsnest

Happy New Year!

The Emergency Editor (21/12/10)

Posted in News

I have an emergency editor. I know several writers who have them these days, or else beta-readers or someone who’s going to give them a second opinion on their work before they submit it to their publisher. I have no idea whether we’re a small minority or a vast majority, or whether such things are far more common now than they used to be. I’d say I don’t really care either, but if some knew the answer, I’d be curious enough to listen. Point being, really, we all have our own way of doing things; for me, every now and then, that means wheeling out the emergency editor whenever something just isn’t working.

Roughly, the way it works is that I read the manuscript, chapter by chapter, and get stopped every seventeen-and-a-half seconds to be told that I’ve now used the word effervescent twice in living memory and why is one of my characters explicitly walking slowly in one sentence and then observed to be moving quickly in the next (fortunately allowing me to simply skip the next sentence in which they dismount from the horse they never actually had in the first place). Often there is a little coda, along the lines of ‘that chapter’s quite good’ or ‘that was a bit long’ or the dreaded ‘Meh. OK I guess,’ which means it isn’t.

As you can imagine, sometimes this can mean that reading through a chapter, even one of mine, can take quite a long time. I’d been mentally thinking of it as extreme editing, since we really do pick apart the manuscript line by line sometimes. However, I understand from several of my fellow authors that extreme editing is already taken and refers to re-writes carried out while free-climbing the Tsaranoro Massif or hiding inside a cave somewhere on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. My version takes place curled up somewhere warm and cosy and usually involves either hot chocolate or hot and sour soup. Not all that extreme really.

Admittedly, what comes to mind when I think ‘emergency editor’ is the emergency pilot from Airplane! but that just. . . No, just let’s not go there.

So next time you put down a book and revel in the buzz of just how good it was, spare a thought for the beta-readers, the emergency editors, the unpaid (I’d say unsung, but I guess they’re often among the names credited in the this-novel-would-never-have-existed-if-it-wasn’t-for bit that I never used to read up to a few years ago (please tell me I’m the only one) helpers who do it for the love. And the chocolate. And the soups. And maybe an episode of Dexter every 2-3 chapters, but still, mostly for the love.

(You can follow my muse, my better half, my emergency editor and many other things, the gorgeous and heroic @adamantine_lady, on Twitter. Just, for the love of Planck’s Constant, don’t say anything bad about Name of the Wind. Meanwhile The Warlock’s Shadow has been moved out of theatre and into intensive care).

What Exactly Does Finished Mean Anyway (7/9/2010)

Posted in News

At the time of writing, I have four novels all at various stages of completion.

The Order of the Scales is with my editor for editing. Eventually it will come back. Some form of rewrite will occur. Then there will be copy-editing, another (minor) rewrite and then the proof-reading (during which I probably won’t change the ending this time).

The Warlock’s Shadow is probably one spit-and-polish rewrite away from being ready to be sent to my editor.

The King’s Assassin exists as a complete first draft. It’s a bit rubbish at the moment, needs at least one major rewrite, but it’s recognisable as a complete story and largely the one that will appear in print one day.

The first draft of The Black Mausoleum is, er…. started.

Now all of that’s probably not very interesting unless you’re my editor, but I think I’ve declared that I’ve ‘finished’ at least two of them at some point in the past. Which might have made sense in the context in which it was said, but does make me wonder what an author actually means when he or she says something is finished.

Is it when the first draft is complete? All the creative hard work is done, after all, and the rewrites are just touching up, right? Well I used to think that, but no, sometimes rewrites involve taking large chunks, throwing them away and replacing them with new large chunks. So no, first draft is NOT finished. Kind of obvious when you stop to think about it.

Maybe a more generally accepted ‘finished’ is when something is submission-ready; when an author genuinely thinks they’ve finished and have something that’s ready to go to print. No author would submit if they didn’t think that, right? Right? I mean, we wouldn’t do it just because it was ‘well, mostly done anyway’ and we were aching for that next advance cheque, right? And editors don’t generally change much, do they? Do they? They don’t for example, take your 200,000 word manuscript and advise you to throw away 185,000 words of it and build a new novel around the remainder? They wouldn’t do that, would they?

Yes, they would. In fact they delight in it. If something was always ‘finished’ when it was submitted, editors would be a bit pointless. If we can’t say we’re finished until we’ve satisfied our editor, you might as well throw in the copy-edit as well. Changes here are supposed to be more about the structure of sentences and paragraphs than about scenes or entire acts, but that’s not to say it can’t happen. You can throw in the proof-reading too.

Even once a book is in print, typos still get found and corrected for subsequent editions. If you’re strict with your definitions, maybe a book is finished when it’s permanently out of print. Although maybe by then it’s almost finished in a different way.

In order to eradicate such confusion, I propose the following taxonomy of ‘finished’s

Done: I have written a first draft that seems fine right now, but will bear little resemblance to the final published story.

Sorted: I have written the second draft that apparently needs just a little spit and polish to be complete, but will still bear little resemblance to the final published story.

Poobah-poobah<unnecessary scene>: I truly and utterly believe I have completed the finest work of fiction ever beheld. Every word is a polished jewel of inspiration. I am merely giving this to my editor so I might revel in his gasps of admiration and delight. I am a Hephaestus among word-smiths, whose creative genious will evolve my readers to higher planes of thought.

Finnished: I have taken my editors many and oft sarcastic comments in my stride. I have also taken both the appropriate calming medicines and the necessary remedial action. Although I will never publicly admit this, it’s probably better than it was.

Really Finnished: I have finished the copy-edit and it is perfect. Now leave me alone.

Finished: I have done the damn proof-reading and removed the fucking typos. I never want to see this book again.

So, for future reference, and just so we all know what we’re talking about, The King’s Assassin is Done, the Warlock’s Shadow is Sorted, and Order of the Scales is Poobah-poobah<unnecessary scene>. There. Isn’t it all much clearer now?

Dragons For The Win (22/6/2010)

Posted in News

I have become a single dad, and a rather unwell one at that, for the week, so this will be short. Gemmells: Hurrah for dragons and congratulations through gritted teeth to Pierre Peveral and The Cardinal’s Blades for kicking my Adamantine butt in the Morningstar award. Also noted that the Empire, winner of the main Legend award probably took a lot of people by surprise, but was probably the most Gemmell-esque novel on the shortlist. So, justice. Also, for those of you who weren’t there, you missed the opportunity to get the ENTIRE GOLLANCZ OUTPUT for 2010 for a little over £200 in the auction.

Order of the Scales went to my editor late last week, this week is proof-reading The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice.

Also, am watching with amusement as the old football powers of Europe struggle their way through the group stages of the World Cup and start to crash out. It seems to me that we all expect England, France, Germany and Italy to dominate their groups and when they don’t we mutter at how bad they were with perhaps not enough regard for the ‘lesser’ nations that keep thwarting their progress. Serbia, New Zealand, Algeria and South Africa might not have the same talent available, but that’s clearly not the end of the story and often their passion and desire have made them a joy to watch. Makes me wonder whether the same can be said of genre fiction writers. Are we all trying to be George RR Martin? No, we’re doing our own thing. We’re playing the same game, that’s all.

Blah blah. I can haz sleep now?

The Worth of a Man (8/6/2010)

Posted in News

As I write this, there are two ARCs of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice available up on eBay. One of them is signed, the other is unsigned. The difference in price is considerable. My thoughts on this are conflicted. Along the lines of:

Wow. That’s a lot of money for a book.

So my signature is worth that much? Coo.

To someone else.

Which bit of NOT FOR RESALE isn’t clear?

The book isn’t out for NEARLY THREE MONTHS yet.


I’ve signed exactly two ARCs of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. Signed them at Forbidden Planet. I’m really quite sure I haven’t signed any others, and, well, the fact that it’s got a date on it kind of dots the i’s and crosses the t’s quite nicely. So, Britobooks, now I know who you are. The question is, do I mind?

On one level yes, simply because ARCs state that they are NOT FOR RESALE and so selling them on e-bay is riding roughshod over the wishes of the publisher, who presumably supplied said ARC free and gratis and entirely at their own expense. And my publisher is my friend and if you upset my publicist, you upset me in a big sticking together all-on-the-same-team group-hugging kind of way.

But should I care? Exactly how does an author, lose out? So what if it’s on sale on eBay? Seriously, is there anyone so desperate to read The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice that they’re prepared to pay five times the recommended retail price just to get it three months early? No. So it’s going to go to a collector who’s only interested in it because it’s an expensive and a rarity. In fact, signing the ARC is a marginal win for me, isn’t it, since it pushes the price up and ensures that the book isn’t bought by a casual reader who might otherwise have bought a copy from a shop. Since that ARC would otherwise presumably have languished in a box and might now be read, leading to the (unlikely, perhaps, but still extant) possibility of enthusiasm, further book purchases, reviews, etc., strictly I think I should be pleased it’s on e-bay instead of in a box.

Well I’m not. Publication day is three months away, the ARC is in ‘fine unread condition’ (one therefore assumes no review will be forthcoming[2]). Britobooks, you have cost me nothing, but  your don’t-give-a-shit attitude is rude and makes my publicist sad. I wave my private parts at you, fart in your general direction and speak your name to my friends in Her Majesties Revenue and Customs. However…

Let’s suppose, for a moment, that Britobooks, whoever he/she is, had in fact read the ARC and had reviewed it (and is simply waiting, as asked, for a few days before publication before releasing their review into the wild) and had waited until after publication day[3]. The ARC has served its purpose and a surfeit of ARCs, after all, is a problem… So if it’s sold on e-bay, who exactly loses? If an ARC is read, reviewed and then sold after the first edition is in the shops, frankly why should either author or publisher care? [1]

(Progress report: Working on the last rewrite of OOTS. Can’t decide if it’s a disordered mess or the best thing I’ve ever written. Possibly both. Aiming to submit to my publisher around about the day of the Gemmells).

[1] My personal preference would be for spent ARCS to find their way to charity shops and be read several times more rather than languish on the shelves of a collector, but hey, you take the trouble to write a review, I’m not going to complain.

[2] Also, from a quick stock check of other signed proofs in their store, I can also reveal that I’m worth about a quarter of an Abercrombie. I find I can live with that.

[3] Late edit: It’s been pointed out to me that early release of ARCs into the wild like this then leads to the possibility of pre-release torrenting of the book, and that surely does hurt both author and publisher.

They Live! (24/3/2010)

Posted in News

Gemmel awards last reminder: You vote for the Morning Star award here, the Legend award here and the Ravenheart (cover art) award here. Inside information is that the Ravenheart award in particular needs your love, and given the passion of debate about cover art I’ve seen here and there over the last months, that’s a bit of a surprise. Vote, if you haven’t, and if you have, make ten other people do it. And then make each of them make ten more people vote. Build your own block-voting pyramid scheme! Anything, as long as it’s not apathy. Apathy would be bad. This round of voting is just for the shortlists, after all. A month from now, I shall be bothering you all about this again.

Today’s news is that the final printed copies of King of the Crags have arrived, and very fine they look too:

Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons...

Shiny shiny, shiny books of dragons...

Nice sample on the back of the hardcover, too: He’d tried to hide deep amid the darkness, beneath layer upon layer of leaf-shadow and branches, but they always found him. He’d tried to run, but the fire always followed him and the forest turned to flames and ash behind him. He’d tried the freezing waters of the river and the dragons had simply boiled it dry… (from chapter one).

On Order of the Scales, I spent the last few days rearranging the chapters in the first third until my eyes bled, trying to get the pacing right. But that’s done, and once I can see again, I’ll be about halfway through by the end of the week. I’m very close to a draft that’s ready to submit with this one.

Oh, and at the Gollancz quiz night last night, I think I got at least one question right, and we all left hot with the buzz about the latest offering from Adam Roberts, who largely stole the show with his plug for Yellow Blue Tibia III, Yellowest, bluest, most-tibia-like-thing. Or something like that. Am already looking forward to any news on part IV, Yellow Blue Tibia with A Vengeance.

I may also finally be living my childhood dreams. Or I may not. For now, this is as uncertain as Adam’s aliens.

The Black Mausoleum (16/2/2010)

Posted in News

In theory I’m supposed to be taking a couple of weeks off between completing the proof-reading of King of the Crags and launching into the last rewrite of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice and then the very-far-from-last rewrite of Order of the Scales. So I absolutely haven’t started working on something else and it absolutely isn’t called The Black Mausoleum and there absolutely aren’t 10000-odd words of this already laid down. Absolutely can’t have happened. It’s my fortnight off, after all.

In the meantime, as the UK celebrates(?) its biggest ever lottery win, I note that this would equate to selling roughly 100 million books. I’m estimating a roughly 50/50 chance of achieving this before the sun explodes [1].

For those of you looking for anything more substantial, I have left a mess over on John Scalzi’s blog, in which I fantasize  that there might be some sort of element of vicarious satisfaction or even satire involved in writing stories about enormous fire-breathing monsters burning the shit out of people who badly badly deserve it.

Oh, wait, that doesn’t happen until later…

[1]  All right all right, swells up into a red giant and vapourizing everything, strictly isn’t the same as exploding.

When in Doubt, Cut (28/9/09)

Posted in News

The great re-write-athon continues. King of the Crags has gone back to Gollancz now (ARCs expected around the end of October or early November). The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice has exited its penultimate rewrite, with another pre-submission spit-and-polish coming up in November. Next up, it’s another rewrite – the Gazetteer this time, then another one (that spit and polish), then probably another one (The Order of the Scales) and then probably yet another one, this time the edit to Thief-Taker. All in all, the great re-write-athon looks like it’s going to add up to something like seven months. With a bit of luck there might be a chance to work a bit on The Warlock’s Shadow and one or two bits and pieces. Or maybe I’ll spend my few spare hours watching True Blood and Dexter and other uplifting entertainments. Dammit, for a moment I had a flash of yearning for the good old days of NOT being published, when everything was new and shiny and rewriting  didn’t occupy HALF A F**KING YEAR!

In the meantime, however, it seems I am doomed to become a re-write expert. With two down and four to go, you’ll all doubtless be hugely please to know that I already have much unwanted wisdom burning to be shared. We’ll start with a simple mantra with which I shall beat myself repeatedly, probably wrapped around a handy piece of two-by-four: When In Doubt, Cut.

See, that uneasy feeling you get reading through your own manuscript at some point is the creeping realisation that your near-perfect work might, in fact, have an itsy-bitsy flaw in it. Now if you’re me, you’ll get this sensation  around about the time you get to a certain scene, say, of which you are particularly fond and proud. A scene that is, you believe, essential to the overall greatness of the story you’re trying to tell. A scene that will make your readers gasp with awe and bow at the mention of your name. A scene that is pivotal to atmosphere or to the understanding of some character, even if it’s a but superfluous as far as the plot goes and, in fact, had to be mangled into place with a crowbar and a mallet between two chapters that had previously been perfectly cosy neighbours.

You get where this is going, right. When In Doubt, Cut. No matter how awesome your scene is, if it doesn’t belong in your story then it doesn’t belong in your story. Cut it. Do it Now! Don’t think about it, just do it, and revel in the relief of knowing that that, even though it was hard, you did the Right Thing. Yes, I’m afraid some scenes need some Tough Love. You can always put them in some other story, right?

Or you can cut them out and post them on the internet (this is one of those Blue Peter here’s-one-I-made-earlier outtakes because what I cut out of Thief-Taker was pretty naff. But I promise, any more polished finished scenes that end up lying bleeding on the floor, I’ll put them up :-)

And if my recording of True Blood doesn’t start behaving itself RIGHT NOW then the next thing I’ll be re-writing is a letter to my insurance company explaining how exactly I accidentally dropped a laptop through the TV screen and right out the other side.

Anyway. Yes. When In Doubt, Cut.

One rewrite finishes, another one starts (8/9/09)

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The rewrite for King of the Crags is finally finished. (This is author-speak, which is, I’ve discovered, much like scientist-speak or engineer-speak for finished in that what it actually means, is that the bulk of the hard work is done and now I’m going to fiddle around the edges for several years).

OK. Almost finished. It will be finished before Fantasycon. Promise. Finished and deliverated. Well, finished and deliverated except for all the changes that will happen during the copy-edit, that is.

OK, OK, not finished then. On schedule. Will that do?

No it won’t, because April next year still feels like half a lifetime away. There’s the now definitely officially deleted prologue, but that’s old news. New news is that there is a most excellent draft map from the most excellent Dave Senior (no link – sorry) which just goes to show what a real professional can do when compared with my own somewhat less excellent draft map posted previously. Also, I’ve been sitting on the incredibly gorgeous draft cover for King of the Crags for ages now with dragon-art by the master of dragon art Dominic Harman. Unveiled exclusively here in advance of Fantasycon!

See what I did here? Lots of stuff by other people… No actual new material.

There will be, though, and a lot sooner than April. There’s a Sollos-and-Kemir short story waiting patiently to be written. There’s the gazetteer, nearly done, probably ready as a first draft by the end of the month, and believe me, that sucker’s going straight up here, warts and all and anyone who helps to proof-read it will get a part in the movie big thank-you. Promise.

In the meantime though, I have to go bury myself in The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice again.

Status Report (1/9/09)

Posted in News

Am uninspired. Witicisms and worldly insights elude me. The rewriting of The King of the Crags is a few days from finished. The first draft of the gazetteer might just about be done for Fantasycon. Still awaiting official map. Yadda yadda yadda. I am dragon-ed out. Am half moved to drop it all after this rewrite is done and go and do something else for a bit. Elf Cops: Kicking ass[1] and taking names. Pixellated wizards dealing in cut-and-shut horses. Overworked and underpaid goblin engineers building designer monsters for their arms-dealer troll masters. Something daft like that. Suggestions on a postcard, please.

Or urban fantasy. Something to do with zombies, or maybe some edgy vampire thing. Something that sells bucketloads is original. [2]

Fantasycon. Yes. I’ll be at Fantasucon. Come to Fantasycon! Everyone come to fantasycon and buy me beer so I can dazzle you with the exceptionally magnificent cover to King of the Crags and with awesome author insights like: How come zombies always seem to have all their teeth even when the rest of them has half rotted away? and If vampires are cold, how come I can see their breath?

I’ll get me coat.

[1] Don’t kick asses. They kick back and they’re much better at it.

[2] Yeah. Like dragons. Totally edge-of-the-envelope.

Another One Bites The Dust (31/7/09)

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Today’s handy writing tips, one do, one don’t. DO listen to music while you write. I Have the unusual luxury of a house to myself[1] for the first time in a long time and as I write this, the music is cranked up LOUD. House-consuming, brain-swallowing chords fill the world, cascades of notes do battle with warlike flights of arpeggios and give life to the symphony of mayhem in my head waiting to be writ as space and time rip and swirl and fall apart…

Er. Or something like that. Music good. Let’s leave it at that. It doesn’t *have* to be Wagner after all. It could be… Rammstein. Anything at all. Anything as long as it’s loud and German, apparently.

Today’s DONT. DONT write with a kitten on your lap. Don’t even try. Don’t write with a kitten in the same room as you, looking up at you with its big mournful eyes, chirruping it’s heart away at the merciless cruelty of an owner who won’t let it have the lap it so clearly deserves. Don’t do this, because this will inevitably turn into a kitten-on-lap situation. Don’t write with a  kitten in the same house, because that soon becomes a kitten in the same room. And don’t think you can fob them off with food, because yeah, sure, off they go and being the little balls of accelerated space-time that they are, they’ll simply inhale whatever you’ve given them and be back before you can remember what a paragraph is. And then they’ll be back you’re right where you started except with cat-breath and the occasional cat-fart now.

Now I love my kittens to bits, but there are limits, and those limits include being having one kitten walk all over the keyboard while I’m in the middle of the last chapter of something while the other one gets a bit playful and starts batting at the USB stick in the hope that it’ll somehow grow legs and fur and a tail, jump off the desk and run squeaking in terror for the nearest sofa. Polite notice to my feline friends: Miaow rawwwaram prrrrrupmiaw! [2]

So yes, feline readers, there are limits and you’d best beware, for while a kitten is tradi – GET OFF THE FRIGGING USB STICK FOR PITY’S SAKE – traditional friend, there are certain necessities to m – OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T CHEW THAT – maintaining the supply of catfood.

It’s possible that the first draft of The Thief-Taker’s – GET OFF THE FUCKING MOUSE BUTTONS –  Apprentice is finished. I have to go now. Cat fart. Bad one <sounds of choking> <transmission ends>

[1] Except for kittens, as will become clear.

[2] No, this is not a new and interesting species of mouse that you have discovered. It is in fact my work. My life’s work.  Possibly the sole repository for my life’s work, given what your litter-mate appears to have done to my laptop.

Ignore your synopsis at your peril (30/6/09)

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What’s the point of a synopsis? I suppose you might think that’s pretty simple, really, that the synopsis is there to, you know, summarise the story and stuff like that. Actually that’s quite a hard thing to do; to be blunt, I find writing a synopsis a lot more challenging than writing a novel (although it is a bit quicker). What a synopsis is NOT is a summary of the plot. A synopsis is also not a dramatis personae. It is not a chapter-by-chapter summary of your story. You might think it’s one of those things, but it isn’t, even if it cunningly disguises itself as one. What a synopsis isn’t is a summary of what you want to say and nothing more. It needs to be a summary of how you mean to say it too. Remember, after all, what your synopsis is for, after all. It’s for making your agent, editor, other editors, preferably everyone in the whole world, be so convinced that the thing your synopsis is a synopsis of is so damn good that they salivate at the thought of being able to read it one day. It’s a marketing tool. In fact, when it comes down it, your synopsis doesn’t need to bear any actual resemblance to what you end up writing. By the time a manuscript finally arrives, it’s long done its job. Hasn’t it?

Well I think the answer is yes to the above. All of the above. Even the bits of the above that directly contradict each other. And while I certainly do worry about making sure my synopses are marketing tools (you have to bear in mind here that everything I’m under contract to produce has been on the basis of a synopsis and a few chapters being all there is to show) and that they reflect the tone and the style of what I plan to write, they do still, you know, summarise the story and stuff like that. Things might change a bit here and there, but quite a bit of thought goes into the story design at this stage. It’s all mapped out, at least as a sketch, and that’s what the synopsis is supposed to show – that you know the way. A map, that’s what a synopsis is to me. A really cool map that tells you how you’ll get from the start of the story to the end, and shows you just how irresistibly cool the journey is going to be. A map that always reminds you where you’re going and how to get there.

So, having extolled the virtues of the synopsis, can I know extol the virtues of actually following the damn thing. Just like I didn’t recently. Don’t look at your word count and think Hmmm… going a bit long here… Can recover that if I just skip a bit. That was just character development, after all.

No. Bad Steve. BAD Steve. Several tens of thousands of words later, Syannis the Thief-Taker does something that’s unexpectedly out of character. It needs to seem a bit off-kilter. Except it doesn’t. Why? Because Syannis the Thief-Taker hasn’t had the attention he needs to make an outburst of [spoiler deleted] seem a bit odd. Which means that the reaction of Berren, his apprentice, doesn’t work. Which makes what he was about to do next seem a bit odd. And thus the whole rest of my novel unravels before my eyes.

Bah. But like every boy scout knows, maps don’t work if you don’t follow them.

Well it’s spotted now, it’s easily fixed on this occasion and if I overrun, well then it won’t be by much and it won’t be the end of the world. It’s cost me a couple of days and a slight headache from too much brow-furrowing. It could have been a lot, lot worse. Still – note to self for the future: Write the story you set out to write, dammit.

Lots of other stuff bubbling about at the moment. Some signings, some world-building, a map (yes, you heard, a MAP!) of the dragon-realms and maybe some new stories. All on hold for now while I finish the first draft of The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice, but watch this space about a month from now.

The Unbearable Slowness of Stuff (9/6/09)

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I am not, by birth, German. However, important parts of me may well be. My wife is German, for example, and that’s about as important a part as it gets. I can’t narrow down my German-ness to anything else specific (my left knee, right elbow and pancreas, for example, might or might not be German). But I can give you some generalities. You can tell what traits a country is particularly good at by looking at what words we nick off them[1]. Angst, for example. Schadenfreude. Schlepping[2]. What I have is Ordnung.

Ordnung. We haven’t really nicked Ordnung, but we should. I used to think this was a place where someone called Alice lived, but now I know better. It means having everything in its proper place. it means being rather a bit anal and having a touch of  OCD about you, which, I’m afraid, is me. I am going to introduce everyone to Ordnung. Why? So I can batter the publishing industry around the head with it. Why? Because there’s one thing no one warns you about in this authoring malarkey, and that’s just how slowly some things happen. Now traditionally, the image here is of authors swanning around, missing deadlines left right and centre while gaunt twitching editors with an increasing array of nervous ticks run around trying to persuade them to, you know, write words. Yeah, bash some authors with some Ordnung, that should improve matters, shouldn’t it? George RR, he could do with some Ordnung, right? Well no, I’m not going to advocate that, because creative genius has to trump Ordnung and I’m on the author side of the fence and if it takes a lifetime to write a masterpiece than it takes a lifetime, right? (Although the Ordnung gremlins can’t help but mutter amongst themselves that the occasional status report at least wouldn’t go amiss).

So here I was, fresh-faced author, newly minted, freshly ordained, keen and eager and desperate to impress (yes, this was a long time ago – I’m starting on the path to bitter and twisted now), determined not to fall into this trap. Write hard, I thought to myself. Write long and hard and your Ordnung shall save you… What no one bothers to mention, until you find it out for yourself, is that it-takes-as-long-as-it-takes cuts both ways.

So in the spirit of keeping a diary of how this whole process works, let me be the first to say that sometimes it does. Now deals can be done very quickly and frequently are. But man, sometimes it seems to take forever to ratify things. Months and months and months. And then just when you’ve given up, BOOM! A cheque arrives for no apparent reason[3].

This is no real complaint – I’m not successful enough to actually need the money yet – but while I have a shrewd idea what to expect, I really still don’t have a clue when to expect it. Maybe I’m just dim, but if you’re financially dependent on advance cheques and royalties, I imagine it’s a total nightmare

Ordnung. Wir muessen mehr Ordnung haben, bitte.

[1] Yes, yes, the French probably did have a weekend of their own. They probably even went out for picnics too.

[2] Believe it or not, the Germans schlepp very well.

[3] Talk to your agent. Your agent knows everything. Your agent will, for example, know that this cheque is in fact for the polish audio rights that you sold back in the seventies for something you forgot you even wrote. Or something like that.

Little Things (2/6/09)

Posted in News

I signed a book for an engineer at work yesterday. Sometimes little things like that mean as much as big reviews.

King of the Crags still hasn’t come back from my editor (Oi! Simon! This means you!). I Can’t decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Or maybe it’s a don’t-submit-so-bloody-early thing. Anyway, The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is half written now so I’ll probably finish that first anyway. And then I’ll submit that AND Order of the Scales AND The Warlock’ Shadow AND The King’s Assassin. All at once. And some other stuff too! Ha HAAA!

<sigh> Yes, it seems that dieting CAN trigger delusions.

More Books (12/5/09)

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“John Jarrold has concluded a three-book World Rights deal with Simon Spanton of Gollancz, for a YA fantasy series by novelist Stephen Deas, for a good, five-figure sum in pounds sterling. Deas’ debut novel, a dragon fantasy titled THE ADAMANTINE PALACE, was published by Gollancz in March 2009 to plaudits and a fast reprint. There are two forthcoming sequels.

This new series will be interleaved with the adult dragon fantasies. The first volume, THE THIEF-TAKER’S APPRENTICE, will be delivered in December 2009, for publication in early autumn 2010. Deas is presently completing final editorial work on the sequel to his debut, KING OF THE CRAGS, which is due for publication in April 2010.” (Full press release)

Yes, I can now officially announce that I’ll be signing a second contract with Gollancz for a series of books to be written and published in parallel with the current dragons series. The new books will be YA fantasy and will have almost nothing to do with the existing dragons series. Almost.


The series will be based around an adult novel I wrote a few years ago. So since this is intended as YA, I will be a) making the protagonist somewhat older, b) adding more sex and gory violence. More later, including a snippet of the work in progress in a few weeks time, perhaps.

Finished (kinda) (4/5/2009)

Posted in News

The first draft of dragon book three is finished.

Well kind of finished.

Finished as in I’ve reached the end. Not finished as in there’s a fair bit of work to be done before I’ll be sending it in for edit. Like sorting out the plotline that started off in King of the Crags and tripped over its own cleverness halfway through. I can hear my editor telling me to get rid of it already. But still, I get to dance my little victory jig and have a week off and slap myself on the back and stuff like that.

Um. Now what? I suddenly have nothing to do.

Dragon World Tour: Australia (and other reviews) (3/5/2009)

Posted in News

There’s a very fine new review up on the net here. My new best friend, I think…

“…sledgehammering the dragon mythos into fragments, in his awesome new novel The Adamantine Palace”

or how about “…a novel where the dragons finally get pissed off, and do something violent about it.” Yes, yes, the man understands… The Adamantine Palace is about power. And those who struggle for it. Who lie for it. Who kill for it.” Yes yes yes yes!

“These are the dragons your mom warned you about, the ones lurking in the shadows, doing bad things. Horrible things. These are the predators; the ones that floss with velociraptors. Unapologetic. Vicious. Intelligent. Unstoppable. And they might not even be the biggest monsters on the block. That distinction may be reserved for the people that ride them.

One of the best fantasy books of the year.”

OK, OK, I’ll stop before I end up copying the whole review. I guess you can see by now why I’d want to…

A less good review from Lisa Tuttle writing for The Times who is firmly in the ‘want more world-building’ camp (see, it’s become such an even split of views that you can’t get a review from one side without one coming in from the other…)

“It finally begins to come to life on page 135, when we get up close and personal with a wonderfully unusual dragon … If Deas can improve his world-building skills … [spoiler deleted] … future books in this series will certainly be worth reading.” The Times online.

And, following the reprint and making the good news come in threes: Today is publication day for the Adamantine Palace down under. So come on Australia, make a decision that my Brit readers can’t: Better for being skeletal, fast and focussed in on dragons, or better to have had more world-building. The first salvo has already been fired…

(We went to Australia for our honeymoon, so please buy lots of books so we have an excuse to come back and visit again, like, very very soon).

La la la la la l’america (13/11/08)

Posted in News

The one (and only) big advantage of being sent to far-away places in service of the day-job is suddenly finding myself with lots of free time at very strange hours of the day. Even in sub-urban Los Angeles, there really isn’t a huge amount of touristy stuff that I want to do when I’ve just woken up a three o’clock in the morning. Actually, mostly what I want to do is have breakfast. However, it’s also turning out to be a fine time to get some writing done, and so King of the Crags has raced ahead. Word count is sitting at 113k and the book is very nearly finished (the very first draft, at least). With a bit of luck it’ll be done in time for the proofs of the Adamantine Palace to arrive next week. It’s not going to be any longer than The Adamantine Palace, but the chapter count is a little lower which might please a few people. There’s more dragon, too, but you’ll still all have to wait until book three for certain mysteries to be resolved.

And the other America news is that a deal has been struck and The Adamantine Palace and all its little friends will be being published in the US as well. More when I know it.

Dragon anniversary (12/10/08)

Posted in News

On the 11th October 2007, this appeared in my in-box:

“I had a phone call yesterday… Very occasionally a publisher will have a general idea and ask if I feel there is anyone they might discuss it with on my books. Simon [Spanton] is keen to discuss intelligent dragon fantasy – not busty girl with sword on dragon, but something that would appeal broadly, including the intelligent fantasy-reading audience… Is this something you would be interested in?”

The Adamantine Palace and the dragons within were first conceived the following day, exactly a year ago. It seems a long, long time ago.

Anyway, back from work-related travels yesterday with no idea what timezone I’m in. Everything is a blur. The cover proofs arrived while I was away. They’re subtly different from the draft I put up a while back, but you have to really look to spot the differences. They’re also shiny and glittery and gleamy :-)

I still managed to get some real work done while I was away. King of the Crags is up to 85k word and I’m still hoping (without a great deal of optimism, I must admit) to have the first draft finished by the end of the month.

Rumours of impending reviews are starting to arrive. It’s kind of scary knowing that the bound proofs are out there, being read by people who have absolutely no reason to be anything other than honest about what they say.

Summary Bibliography

Posted in Excerpts | Important

Correct as of 19th June 2015. I will periodically update this for major changes.
Historical Fiction as S J Deas (William Falkland)

William Falkland has spent six years fighting for the king. It’s four years since he last saw his family, and all he wants to do is go home; [...]